Uzeyir Hajibeyov


18 september, 1985



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Uzeyir bey Abdul Huseyn oglu Hajibeyov (Azerbaijani: Üzeyir bəy Əbdülhüseyn oğlu Hacıbəyov, Azerbaijani pronunciation: [yzeˈjiɾ ˌhɑd͡ʒɯˈbæjov] / عزیر حاجی‌بیوو; Russian: Узеир Абдул-Гусейн оглы Гаджибеков; September 18, 1885, Shusha (Aghjabadi village) – November 23, 1948, Baku) was an Azerbaijani and Soviet composer, conductor, publicist, playwright, teacher, translator, and social figure from Azerbaijan. He is recognized as the father of Azerbaijani composed classical music and opera. Uzeyir Hajibeyov composed the music of the national anthem of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (which was re-adopted after Azerbaijan regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991). He also composed the anthem used by Azerbaijan during the Soviet period. He was the first composer of an opera in the Islamic world.

Uzeyir Hajibeyov was born in Agjabadi in the Elisabethpol Governorate of the Russian Empire, which is now part of Azerbaijan. His father, Abdul Huseyn Hajibeyov, was the secretary to Khurshidbanu Natavan for many years, and his mother, Shirin, grew up in the Natavan household. Growing up, Hajibeyov was strongly influenced by Natavan's work.
Shusha, often dubbed as the cradle of Azerbaijani music and culture, had a reputation for its musical heritage. The town was also referred to as "the Music Conservatory of the Caucasus" because of its many talented musicians and singers. And the fact that Hajibeyov grew up in Shusha explains how at 22, in 1908, with very little formal musical education, he was capable of writing a full-length opera.

Hajibeyov received his early education in a religious school (madrasah), where he perfected his Arabic and Persian. Later he studied at a two-year Russian-Azerbaijani school. Here, with the help of his favourite teacher Mirza Mehdi Hasanzadeh, he familiarized himself with the heritage of the famous classic writers of the East and the West. The richness of the musical performance tradition of Shusha greatly influenced the musical education of Uzeyir Hajibeyov. He would later reflect on his experiences: "The first musical education I got as a child in Shusha came from best singers and saz-players. At that time I sang mughams and tasnifs. The singers liked my voice. They would make me sing and teach me at the same time." Uzeyir Hajibeyov's first teacher was his uncle Agalar Aliverdibeyov, an excellent connoisseur of Azeri folk music. In 1897–1898, when Azerbaijani playwright Abdurrahim Hagverdiyev and singer Jabbar Garyagdyoglu staged the episode Majnun on Leyli's grave from Leyli and Majnun, 13-year old Uzeyir sang in the choir. From 1899 to 1904 Uzeyir Hajibeyov studied at the Gori Pedagogical Seminary. There, along with general education, he also acquired music. In this school Hajibeyov learned to play the violin, the violoncello and the brass instrument. After his graduation from the Pedagogical Seminary, Uzeyir Hajibeyov was appointed a teacher to the village of Hadrut in Upper Karabakh. Having worked there for a year, Hajibeyov permanently settled in Baku, where he carried on his career in teaching mathematics, geography, history, Azeri and Russian languages, and music. He wrote the Turkic-Russian and Russian-Turkic Dictionary of Political, Legal, Economic and Military Terms, Used in Press in 1907 and the textbook Arithmetic Problems in 1908, and had them published by the Orujov Brothers Publishing House in Baku.
Hajibeyov was no stranger to the tragic chaos of war; he lived through the Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the fall of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan in 1920, and both World Wars. The political repercussions of these military conquests often manifested in other forms of chaos. For example between 1920 and 1940, the alphabet systems for writing Azeri were changed three times — from Arabic to Latin, and from Latin to Cyrillic — a process which greatly hindered and interrupted the educational and cultural process and may well have been one of the factors influencing Uzeyir Hajibeyov to present his ideas verbally on the musical stage.

Throughout all the tumultuous change in Azerbaijan that took place between 1900 and 1940, one characteristic consistently reflects the character of Uzeyir Hajibeyov. He always searched for ways to merge and integrate the past with the present rather than to discard either form. Rather curiously, even files at the Gori Pedagogical Seminary have shown his persistence in holding on to his own roots even under pressure. On December 3, 1900, when he was 15, it is noted that "the student, Uzeyir Hajibeyov, was rebuked because he was talking in his native language." Conversely, when Russian-influenced musicians tried to ban traditional Azerbaijani instruments like the tar, zurna and kamancha, Hajibeyov and his colleagues pushed to incorporate them into the Western orchestra, thereby, giving them an even higher status and ultimately a chance to survive.